Moore Forward Kicks Off Initiative
Dr. Jill Roberson wishes she could have plugged into an organization like Moore Forward before opening Premier Pediatrics in Southern Pines a decade ago.
"It would have made things a lot easier," Roberson said. "I didn't have any contacts. I can remember seeing three patients a week when I started. It was very treacherous."
To build her practice, Roberson donned a bear costume and attended school fairs, handing out candy to children and business cards to their parents. It worked.
"We see about 60 patients a day now," she said.
Roberson, who also owns a pet store in Rockingham, was one of about 200 stakeholders at the "launch" party Tuesday for Moore Forward, a new initiative designed to attract entrepreneurs in the wellness, technology and military industries.
"I think of myself as an entrepreneur because medicine isn't the only thing I do," she said. "I also think there is tremendous potential in Moore County, and I'd like to be part of the group that brings the county into the 21st century.
"I do plan on getting involved. I don't know what my options are, but who wouldn't want to be a part of Moore Forward? It's really exciting. I think the best is yet to come."
The purpose of the event at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst was twofold: expose entrepreneurs like Roberson to the initiative and shared office space Moore County Partners in Progress has secured in the former Razook's building in downtown Pinehurst, and begin raising the $200,000 needed to operate Moore Forward in the first year.
Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, said the event was a success on both fronts.
"This is where the rubber meets the road," Corso said. "We got several checks and promises from other people who said they would send a check soon. We also spoke with a number of entrepreneurs interested in the office space. Now, we've got a lot of work to do because we have to follow up on the enthusiasm created. You can't just make a plea from the podium."
That is why Partners will host an open house next Tuesday at 6 p.m. to give entrepreneurs a tour of the office space.
"It will give them an idea of the environment here," said Corso, whose office is in the building. "This is cool space. It's not like working in the basement of your house or hanging out in a coffee shop. If we have 15 people take a desk in the next year, that's a success for us."
Partners also handed out information about the Moore Forward Entrepreneurs Club and Moore Forward Donors. Each has different levels of giving, with the benefits of joining increasing based on the investment.
"We've been very conservative in our approach up to this point," Corso said. "We're ramping things up now because we, as a county, have to own Moore Forward because nobody is going to do it for us. We have to do it collectively. It's a bootstrap, grassroots approach to owning our own destiny."
Corso cited Roberson as an example of a person who knew little about Moore Forward but bought into the initiative once she was exposed to it.
"You never know if people get the vision, and she got it," he said. "There's no simplistic approach to economic development, and the prospects for rural North Carolina are not great right now. So the only chance you have is to do it yourself.
"Moore Forward is about envisioning the future. What do Moore Countians want their county to look like in 2020? A lot of what we want it to be will be tied to the success of Moore Forward."
Andi Korte, dean of continuing education at Sandhills Community College, called Moore Forward "the most exciting thing I've been involved in since I've been here."
"Everybody has come to the table," Korte told the stakeholders. "It's about, 'What do we do next?' This is for future generations, so we need you. We can use you every day."
Anita Holt, CEO of St. Joseph of the Pines, said Moore Forward has been a "connected, integrated, coordinated" effort from the beginning and she urged the crowd to look beyond their wallets.
"In addition to writing a check, there are other gifts you have to share ... to make this a success," Holt said.
John Skvarla, a lawyer and entrepreneur who lives in Pinehurst and was recently appointed secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, gave the keynote speech at the party.
"There is a wonderful assemblage of talent in Moore County," Skvarla said. "In business, you bet on the jockey, not the horse. Moore County is loaded with jockeys of all ages. I would encourage all of you to take advantage of this opportunity."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the
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